There were so many people in my life that thought I was absolutely insane for deciding to travel to Ecuador instead of going to college like everybody else. I was constantly met with statements along the line of “you can always travel abroad in college” and “why don’t you focus on your education first?”. To be completely honest, I was terrified of the idea of college. I didn’t know what I was going to study, or what degree I wanted to pursue. I just felt as though I would be wasting my own time and money if I went to college completely in the dark about how I wanted to emerge. I didn’t want to be one of those people that ended up switching majors 3+ times or having to spend 5 years just to get their bachelor’s degree.
When I committed to Global Citizen Year, I had an underlying insecurity that not being in school for an entire year would somehow make me stupid. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to successfully transition back to a traditional student schedule. There were always anxious thoughts running through my head even through the beginning of program launch in Stanford University. Nevertheless, GCY pushed me to face my fears head on. At that point, I couldn’t simply back out. I was in it for the long haul. 7 months in a completely foreign country without the security of my parents, friends, or even my native language.
Yet, I have found that all of those fears I had prior to arriving in Ecuador have completely dissolved within just one month here. I have noticed a silver lining among many of my previous apprehensions. Instead of learning in classrooms, I am learning through agreeing to dance at my apprenticeship, not realizing that the dance they had taught me was for a parade which the whole town would see. Instead of reading a textbook on how globalization can result in the diminishing of a native culture, I am able to see and experience the dwindling percentage of Ecuadorians that speak Kichwa, a language native to Ecuador. Instead of taking a class to learn about rare and incredible species of animals, I have the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos and see them for myself. Rather than being afraid of changing the way I had always done things, I am now learning to embrace the fact that growth and discovery can come from all kinds of sources and often present themselves in the most bizarre ways.
I realize now that classrooms are not the only place fit to educate. I have learned so much more about myself here than I ever would have at any university. Ecuador is my new teacher, and I couldn’t be more happy.